Monday, June 13, 2011

Protestantism and Roman Catholicism: Part 2 of 3

1)      An Introduction
This is only a very brief comparison of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. Importantly, Christianity is NOT a coin with two legitimate sides to one common faith. The disagreements between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism are not peripheral - rather they encompass the crux of the gospel. Stated bluntly, Roman Catholics believe that Protestants are unregenerate, while Protestants believe that Roman Catholics are unregenerate. In light of Galatians 1:8-9, Protestants are right (c.f. Ephesians 2:8-9)
When I refer to Protestantism, I use the creeds of the Reformation as the standard; for example, while many Protestants reject infant baptism, the Reformation creeds affirm it; therefore, it is the stance of Protestantism. For Roman Catholicism, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Council of Trent are the standards I used. A denial of a more minor aspect of Protestantism does NOT deem someone unregenerate. I denote which teachings are damnable.
2)      Ecclesiology
It may seem tedious initially, but I must start with ecclesiology. Roman Catholics CLAIM that the Roman Catholic Church is the one true church founded by Jesus Christ with the Apostle Paul being given “the keys to the kingdom”. Roman Catholics believe Peter was the first Pope and by Divine Institution a succession of Popes will have authority over the entire church until the return of Christ[i]. Protestants reject the Papacy, which to us has no more validity than the hierarchy of the Taliban.
Catholics and Protestants have DIFFERENT definitions of ‘church’. While Roman Catholics define the church as the visible church of Rome worldwide, Protestants distinguish between the visible church and the invisible church. The visible church is the community of those who profess faith and their children, while the invisible church refers to all of God’s elect (every person chosen by God before the foundation of the world across all time) or the worldwide totality of those who currently believe. However, the visible and invisible church are not two separate churches, but two aspects of the one church of Jesus Christ.
I will evaluate two verses on this topic:

1 John 2:19-20 states “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know”.
John is discussing people who seemed to genuinely profess faith, but then ceased fellowship. John remarks that “they were not really of us” – that is they were never genuine members of the invisible church: they never believed and were never In Christ: they were members of the visible church, but never members of the invisible church.
These people were never true Christians, as true Christians cannot apostatize “if they had been of us, they would have remained with us”; their departure from the visible church empirically proved that they were never true Christians “they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us”. The true church is not only visible but internally SPIRITUAL, as the Holy Spirit is what secures true believers against apostasy “But you have an anointing from the Holy One”.
Romans 9:6 states “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel”.
Paul differentiated between the invisible and visible church in the context of explaining why the majority of the Old Covenant Jews rejected Christ. In the broader context, “the ordo salutis” of Romans 8:29-30 “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” notes that salvation is completely of the Lord: God ALONE predestines, efficaciously calls, justifies and glorifies those exact people He foreknows. The Greek word for foreknew means “to know beforehand" "fore-love" or "fore-appoint"; in Romans 8, Paul is saying the salvation of believers is rooted in God’s eternal, electing love “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
In Romans 9 Paul answers the question “How can the apostasy of Jews be explained if election is rooted in the eternal love of God?” The Old Covenant Jews partook in the sacraments (circumcision and Passover), and even lived in a theocracy, but Paul explains that the nationalistic Israel is not the TRUE SPIRITUAL Israel whom Paul is talking about in Romans 8, and later in Romans 9; it is the TRUE SPIRITUAL ISRAEL to whom God’s electing love is directed. Nationalistic Israel was the visible church, most of whom did not enter the Promised Land because of unbelief (Hebrews 3:19), but within nationalistic Israel, there was the true Israel: the invisible church, just as within our visible congregations, there is a mixture of non-believers (visible church) and the believers (the True Spiritual Israel).
The Invisible Church is ‘Abraham’s seed’ (Gal 3:26-29) and ‘the Israel of God’ (Gal 6:16); both Jews and Gentiles scattered worldwide (remember that the covenant promises to Abraham included children, in an everlasting covenant (Genesis 17:1-14), and under the theocracy of Israel, infants were likewise circumcised). “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh.  But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit”. Romans 2:28-29, clearly distinguishes between the outward visible church (who partake in the sacrament of circumcision[ii]) and the inward invisible church (who are circumcised inwardly by the Holy Spirit).
Jacob and Esau were twin brothers, born at the same time, to the same parents in the same location: they were “womb mates” (thanks R.C. Sproul). Although both womb mates were circumcised as they belonged to the visible church, Esau was NOT part of the invisible church. In Romans 9:13 God said “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated”: a person does not belong to the true Spiritual Israel because of flesh/nationality (verse 8), a person belongs because of "God's purpose according to His choice... because of Him who calls" (verse 11). 
Scripture distinguishes between the visible church and the invisible church; the true church is not an organisation, but a royal priesthood consisting of God’s chosen people: 1 Peter 2:9 “But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION”.
In part one (my previous post), I showed how the Roman Catholic ecclesiology is illogical (with a lot of illogical satire). Here in part two, I provided an exegesis of key Biblical passages to prove Protestant ecclesiology is Biblical, which will provide the avenue for me to in part three conclude this series by Biblically detailing "The Five Solas of the Reformation"

(C), J. Williams, June 2011

[i] Roman Catholics, like Historic Protestants (me) believe in amillennialism. This includes the belief that there will be one coming of Christ, NOT two comings separated by a literal millennial kingdom.
[ii] Circumcision was replaced with baptism as the sign and seal of God’s covenant promise (see Acts 2). Circumcision was a bloody sacrament whereas baptism is a no-bloody sacrament.


  1. Thankyou for this post!

    I have been covenantal for about two years now, and now understand that covenant theology neccessitates paedobaptism. I now agree with paedobaptism, so am Presbyterian in that regard, but how do you biblically support sprinkling or immersion?

    Can you please provide verses if you have time?

  2. Hello,

    Firstly, it is great to hear that you have embraced infant baptism. This is a giant leap to further improving your understanding of God's covenant dealings with man.

    On the issue of the mode of baptism, I wrote the following blog post a little while ago, which I hope will answer your question.

    Please do not hesitate to keep dialoguing with any questions.

    God Bless!